UK researchers are optimistic that curing HIV is soon possible after all traces of the virus of their patient was eliminated. The British researchers who call themselves collectively as CHERUB or Collaborative HIV Eradication of viral Reservoirs: UK BRC used an HDAC inhibitor drug to encourage the body’s immune system to fight the incurable disease.
CHERUB is a collaboration of virologists, immunologists, clinicians, biologists and other experts from different UK institutions. It began six years ago.
Currently, HIV is being treated using Antiretroviral Therapy (ART), which stops the virus from replicating and spreading. This therapy also decreases the amount of virus in a person’s blood, which prevents it from being passed to other people.
Nevertheless, the researchers realized that this therapy is not enough. ART only works on active HIV-infected cells but most HIV infected cells are inactive. The cells with sleeping or resting HIV can cause the disease to return once the therapy stops, hence curing it was impossible, until now.
The HDAC inhibitor drug they used wakes up the sleeping virus and encourages the body to fight it off with its own immune system. The first patient of the researchers has been cured without suffering any side effects.
“This first participant has now completed the intervention and we have found it to be safe and well tolerated,” says one of the study’s principal investigator, Sarah Fidler, Professor of HIV and Communicable Diseases at Imperial College London. “Only when all 50 study participants have completed the whole study by 2018 will we be able to tell if there has been an effect on curing HIV.”
Further research is still needed so the researchers will now recruit 50 more participants for their Kick and Kill study to activate the sleeping virus.
The team include experts from the National Office for Clinical Research Infrastructure (NOCRI) of the NIHR, Oxford University, University of Cambridge, Imperial College London, King’s College London as well as the University College London.